10 Questions with ... Axel Lowe
April 7, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started with Arista records in '91, found myself at 99X at the launch in '92, moved from late-nights, to nights, to PM Drive and even mornings for a year. In 2007, I moved over to our sister station, Rock 100.5 APD -- PM drive. I am now PD/PM drive at WFTK (96 Rock)/Cincinnati.
1) I understand you actually started your career on the record side with Arista. How did you transition into radio?
I had interned for a year and was going to cover Southeast Field Marketing once I had graduated. When I did graduate, there was a log jam in moving the current Southeast rep up to the next position and me in his place. My boss, Linda Alter, said she had a friend at Power 99 (Leslie Fram) who could use some help for a few months until the Southeast Rep job opened. I struck up a great relationship with Leslie, Rick Stacy and others. When they flipped Power to 99X (the second month I was there), an opportunity in radio arose. I grew up listening to Steve Dahl & Kevin Matthews and Johnny B (The Loop) in Chicago, but never thought about being on the radio, I was shooting for the label side of the industry, but the door opened, so I walked into the party.
2) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now, what you didn't then, would you still do it?
Yes. I love radio and the art of connecting one on one with the listener. Playlists are great, but well-programmed radio that is topical, entertaining and engaging will always have an audience. My teenage daughters have been bitten by the vinyl bug; I'd like to see FM radio start to get that nostalgic embrace from the next generation of music consumers.
3) You actually started at 99X in Atlanta at its inception. Tell us about the early years there and how that shaped your radio career?
Yeah, right place at the right time for sure! Rick Stacy and Leslie Fram took me from being a fan of radio to truly understanding how to execute it. It was a crash course in radio in those first few months. Sean Demery, Steve Craig, Wil Pendarvis, Steve Barnes and Jimmy Baron were all veterans of radio at this point, so I just watched, listened and absorbed as much as I could. Brian Philips came in as PD a short time later and really inspired me and helped me become the best on-air talent that I could be. Twenty years later, I still go into every show trying to be a little better than the day before.
4) You moved over to sister station Rock 100.5 in January of 2008 after 99X left the terrestrial airwaves. How was that transition for you?
I grew up on Van Halen and Motley Crue, so after 15 years of playing Nirvana and Pearl Jam, I was excited to play around in the Active-Classic Rock world.
5) After about three years at Rock 100.5, you eventually returned to 99X as PD and afternoon drive before the station transitioned to 98.9 The Bone. How much did your stint at Rock 100.5 help you with this move from Alternative to Active Rock?
To be honest, The Bone consists of a lot of the music I played on 99X all those years. Alternative always moved from Triple A leaning to Active depending on where the movement was. Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Godsmack, Rage and White Zombie all got their start in Atlanta on 99X. Troy Hanson's Rockternative format isn't taking two different genres and forcing them together, it's what rock fans have always listened to ... Rock.
6) After 99X made the transition, you returned to WNNX (100.5) as APD/afternoon drive. The station actually flipped to Classic Rock in December 2013. What did you learn from working on a Classic Rock station that will benefit you in programming WFTK (96 Rock)?
By working in all facets of Rock, I know where the overlap is with our successful sister station WOFX (The Fox) and know what to share and what not to. We are solidifying two great M 25-54 Rock stations in Cincinnati ... one a little older, one a little younger.
7) Congrats on your move to programming WFTK. Can you give us a quick state of the station?
Over the last six months the station shifted away from a straight-up Active to a Rockternative music base. We also put on a new morning show (Free Beer & Hot Wings) and new station voice, Adam Schneider. These are all great improvements, but with change, you take a step back. Our step back was Fall 2014. Since the start of 2015, 96 Rock has been on a tear, it's exciting to see our momentum each week while we see erosion in the competitor! This is going to be a great year for Cumulus Rock in Cincinnati!
8) Now that you're directly involved in the Active Rock format again, what's your take on current music in the Active Rock format?
There are a lot of great new bands - AWOLNATION, Halestorm, Bring Me The Horizon, Pretty Reckless, etc. and I'm excited that AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Kid Rock and Metallica can release new music and people actually embrace it!
9) How does 96 Rock utilize social media as a marketing tool?
We communicate with our audience, like most stations do. It's all about balance - music, lifestyle, humor, behind the scenes of the station, but all without being too in your face or trying too hard. We're your friend, not one of those annoying acquaintances always starving for attention. We're in the middle of an iPad a day giveaway with free Beer & Hot Wings and promoting this event with geo-targeted marketing through social media and other popular online destinations for M 25-54 in our listener audience. There's a lot of bang for the buck there vs. 40K for a short billboard run.
10) You also do afternoon drive on 96 Rock and have always done a drivetime shift of some sort. Now that you're also the PD, How do you balance programming the station and doing a drivetime air shift?
I seriously get my cardio in by sprinting down the hall from my office to studio several times a day. I could track most of it, but I LOVE to be live and in the element, taking phone calls and trying to conjure up the perfect next break.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not fully in "radio" mode?
I would love to re-do one of these beautiful, older homes in Cincinnati. I like home improvement projects. I was lucky enough to host a home improvement show on Turner South for four years (Southern Home By Design). We did 150 shows; they shot around my radio schedule and I got paid to do what I love to do when I'm not listening to music. That, and I'm a fan of the cold beer can and the sand on 30A. Beachin!